Photographer John Sanderson’s earliest and most distinct memories were family road trips from his home in New York City to rural Pennsylvania. Coursing through landscapes of transportation, leisure, residence, industry and decay, his photographs reconcile fleeting grasps for meaning with a deep need to investigate America’s national character. Drawn to rendering the broadly familiar in a specific way, Sanderson’s photographs are captured on foot or during time on the road, where he feels most creative. According to subject and intent, cameras ranging from large format film to hand-held digital are used. Born and raised in midtown Manhattan, much of his work is a response to these surroundings. Here his interest in architecture extends into the non-metropolitan sections of the country and his unabashed portraits recollect the New York City streets.
Sanderson’s longstanding interest in railroad photography developed into a survey of railroad lines which collapsed as engines of urban economy and cultural activity beginning in the 1950s. Working with 4×5 and 8×10 large-format cameras, he is inspired by the 19th century photographs of William H. Rau and Carleton Watkins, whose landscapes are often devoid of the visual momentum a train carries across a picture — reflecting instead on the railroad’s value independent of its intended use.
In 2013 and 2015, Sanderson was a recipient of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s docent scholarship program.